Sunday, February 1, 2009

Pondering on Family

Family - a loaded word, it means many different things to different people.

Family can be an actual nuclear “blood” family - our extended blood family - aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

Families are marked and changed by love, by births, by deaths, by divorces. 

Family blends two or more people into new units that then reproduce newer units: Husband and Wife, Mother and Father and Child, Sisters and Brothers, and so on.

Family opens itself to utter strangers that we decide to love and adopt.

Family can even include friends who are “like family” and become, over time and love, part of the greater unit.

How these various families work out in real life is what creates so much drama and richness - and pain and suffering - in our culture.

Think of the ever-classic evil stepmother – eternally jealous of her husband’s children. How many fairy-tales we would have lost without this stereotype (Cinderella, Snow White, The Twelve Brothers, and more). Or the chilling family creed lived out in The Godfather.

Or think of tales of battered children, neglected elderly parents, adulterous or abusive spouses - all failures of family, all failures of the covenant family represents. A covenant of love, respect, concern, caring.

My own family contains various units that were tossed together in the sunny days and raging storms of life - we stood together in love, and grew stronger. We have weathered death, divorces, remarriages - and welcomed new spouses as beloved new family members.

I consider myself blessed in my of sisters-in-law - past and present, they are all my sisters.

I am blessed with a wonderful brother-in-law. I know, I have three brothers so how do I have a brother in-law?  Its complicated. He is married to my sister-in-law, who was married to my brother, who died on 9/11. I told you it was complicated - but love ties families together, not labels!

Our family is lucky. Yes, there has been divorce and death and tragedy - but family and love survive.

How many blended families curdle and break apart? And what is the solution?

How do you address the pain and anger of your new children in a healing manner when you may have contributed to this pain and anger?

How do you allow your new partner to discipline the children that you have spent so many years protecting?

And how do you ensure that the your marriage stays the priority it should be, and does not become overwhelmed and beaten down by the day-to-day wear and tear of child-rearing?

How do you ensure that you truly learn where you erred in the past in order to ensure that you do not repeat negative patterns?

These questions resonate for me as I recently visited a dear friend who's blended family is still in what I think are "The Early Years" of blending 2 sets of teens. There is love, and I can see the outlines of the developing new family unit - but there are also lumps in the batter, and how to address those lumps can strain the wisest of us.

LORD, thank you for the family you placed me into. Thank you for helping me to learn from and be humbled by my many flaws and mistakes so that I can provide a wiser heart and ear for my loved ones.